Cork Female Entrepreneurs Enco...


Cork Female Entrepreneurs Encourage Others To Apply For Free ACORNS New Business Development Programme

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RedFM News

10:17 4 Sep 2023

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 Cork female entrepreneurs are encouraging others from the county to join the latest cycle of ACORNS - a highly-successful free development initiative to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland.

The call for applications for the 9th cycle of ACORNS was recently launched by Charlie McConalogue T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine. ACORNS is funded through the Department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

The programme comes highly recommended by previous participants, with 100% of those surveyed at the end of the 8th cycle saying they would recommend the programme to others. The 46 entrepreneurs in ACORNS 8 made significant progress over the six months of their involvement, reporting significant growth in their new businesses. Their combined turnover almost doubled in the six months to April 2023 - from €1.9m to €3.6m. Participants in ACORNS 8 employed 96 (55 full-time, 41 part-time) staff at the end of the cycle, an increase of 16. There were also five new exporters over the cycle.

There are 50 places available for ACORNS 9 which will run from October 2023 to April 2024. Those wishing to receive an application form for ACORNS 9 should register on the website (

The deadline for applications is midnight, September 22.

Past participants from Cork include Claire Keane of Second Street Bakeshop and Kath White of FineOaks Alpacas.

Claire set up her first company, a successful artisanal shortbread, caramel and chocolate company in San Francisco in 2006. She sold the company in 2019 and moved back to her native Cork. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic restricted her to the kitchen, where she once again set about experimenting with toffee and shortbread. Encouraged by the feedback from friends and noticing an opening in the Irish market for American-style sweet treats, Claire set up Second Street Bakeshop in September 2021. Claire was a participant on ACORNS 7 and says: “When I joined ACORNS, I found my tribe. The environment is supportive and the collective energy is positively contagious.”

Kath White is the passionate owner of FineOaks Alpacas, nestled on a charming five-and-a-half-acre smallholding near Millstreet, Co Cork. Originally from London, Kath’s love lies in breeding top-quality alpacas and training them to provide wonderful experiences for people. Kath was a participant on ACORNS 8.

She says: “ACORNS 8 has been a hugely pivotal point for me and my business.  Having had an ‘idea’ for a few years, bought some alpacas in the hope of starting a business with them, I have gone from strength to strength, all with the help of the ACORNS programme. Before joining the ACORNS family, I had some but not a lot of confidence in myself and my business idea.  I didn’t know where to start, I did a start your own business course, which was great, but leaving that, felt like I was on my own again, out at sea.  Then, I was accepted onto the ACORNS programme and my whole world changed.  Now I have an ACORNS family.  People who understand my business, understand my ideas, understand my challenges and are there throughout all the self-doubt, hardships and the wins.  I would highly recommend this programme to anybody. It is fantastic and well worth applying.”

ACORNS is based on the belief that early-stage entrepreneurs learn best from their peers. Participants interact with each other in the monthly round table sessions, which are facilitated by a Lead Entrepreneur, who has first-hand experience of starting and successfully growing a business in rural Ireland. Each of the Lead Entrepreneurs give their time to the programme on a voluntary basis, as they believe in the philosophy of ‘entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs’.

Only early-stage female entrepreneurs operating in rural Ireland, and who have had no sales before the end of June 2020, are eligible to apply.

There will be no charge for those selected to participate in ACORNS 9, thanks to the continuing support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the voluntary contribution of time by the Lead Entrepreneurs.

While 46 participants completed ACORNS 8, the initiative also provided continued support to more than 200 past participants through the ACORNS Community, which provided past participants with the opportunity to take part in workshops, roundtables, and other networking events.

This year’s voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs are Anne Reilly, formerly Paycheck Plus; Caroline Reidy, The HR Suite; Deirdre McGlone, Hospitality & Tourism Advisor; Eimer Hannon, Hannon Travel; Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online; Mary B Walsh, Ire Wel Pallets; and Triona MacGiolla Rí, Aró Digital Strategies.

Speaking at the launch, Minister McConalogue said:

“While there are many rewards to being an entrepreneur, it can be a lonely journey with many challenges. To provide support in dealing with these challenges, I am pleased to be able to provide further funding to female entrepreneurs in rural Ireland through the 9th ACORNS Programme. This programme will not only help develop businesses, but will provide networking opportunities to participants that may not be as available in rural parts of the country.

“To date through the ACORNS programme, I have been able to support over 400 female entrepreneurs to realise their business ambitions, while contributing to society in a meaningful way. The impact of this support has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting both increased sales and the creation of additional jobs.

“Considering the wide-ranging benefits accrued, I am delighted that we are in a position to continue to support a further 50 participants for this year’s initiative which is funded under the Rural Innovation and Development Fund".

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